Bernard F. Fisher, 87, an Air Force officer who received the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War for rescuing a fellow pilot who had been downed on a shrapnel-ridden airstrip amid withering enemy fire, died Aug. 16 in Boise, Idaho. The cause was Parkinson's disease, said daughter-in-law Linda Fisher.
By the mid-1960s, the U.S. had put groups of Special Forces in remote areas of Vietnam to draw out the enemy and interdict communist supply lines. One of those bases, in the A Shau Valley along South Vietnam's western border with Laos, was overrun by about 2,000 North Vietnamese in early March 1966.
Many of the Americans at the compound were evacuated in anticipation of the invasion. But about 20 remained in the mountain valley, along with more than 350 indigenous Montagnard irregulars who supported the anti-communist cause, by the time then-Maj. Fisher flew into the area. His mission was to strafe the enemy and buy time for the extraction of friendly forces.
He saw another airman crash on the airstrip and run into a nearby ditch. A rescue helicopter, he learned, would not arrive for perhaps 20 minutes, leaving the airman exposed to enemy capture.
He went in after the downed pilot, Maj. Dafford W. "Jump" Myers, and taxied nearly the entire length of the 2,500-foot runway, skirting all kinds of debris.
From the ditch, Myers waved and then made a fierce sprint to the airplane.